Darty boss departs as Parker wields the axe

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The Independent Online

Thierry Falque-Pierrotin, the chief executive of the electrical retailer Darty, became this autumn's first victim of shareholder activism yesterday.

Alan Parker, the former boss of Whitbread who became chairman of Darty only last month, said the board and Mr Falque-Pierrotin had agreed that he should leave when a full review of the business – the former owner of Comet – was finished in December.

But the Frenchman was already under pressure following the revelation that a £620,000 share award he was given when he joined in 2009 was not – as had been stated in that year's annual report – subject to any performance targets.

Mr Parker admitted that shareholders were rightly angered by "that mistake which happened before I came on the board".

Mr Falque-Pierrotin will get a pay-off of at least £1m based on his base salary of £1.04m last year.

Investors, led by the activist shareholder Knight Vinke, which owns 25 per cent, delivered a massive 58 per cent protest vote against Darty's remuneration report at yesterday's annual meeting.

Eric Knight of Knight Vinke, the company's top shareholder, said Darty needed to create a more meritocratic environment.

"How would you feel if you discovered that your CEO basically had a separate deal which meant that he got paid and you don't? It's very bad for motivation," Knight said on the sidelines of the annual meeting.

The company, formerly known as Kesa, said it had begun a search for a successor to Falque-Pierrotin, pictured, who joined the group in 2009 from French retailer PPR Group and will leave his post in December.

Darty, which was called Kesa until it sold the Comet chain, said sales since May had grown by 1 per cent but same-store sales in its main French business had fallen 2.5 per cent, slightly better than the City had feared.

Darty has already identified €20m (£16m) in potential savings. .and expected to find more as the review continued.

Analyst Panmure Gordon said: "With the outlook in Darty's core French market deteriorating, we expect to see further pressure on profits."